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Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee, 12 smiling members sitting around a long table: Joseph Gaugler, Yusuf Abul-Hajj, Tracey Anderson, Karen Miksch, Gary Engstrand, Terry Simon, Tom Clayton, James Farr, Arlene Carney, William Doherty, Candace Kruttschnitt, Paul Porter.

Members of the 2006-07 Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee met 21 times between September and March. They paused for a photo at the May meeting. "The people involved all had a good sense of humor," says regents professor and chair Tom Clayton. "There was a lot of laughter at all sorts of points in the course of doing this. It was a serious enterprise but not solemn!"

Tenure policy revised in historic effort

Changes mean more rigor and flexibility

By Gayla Marty

Brief, Dec. 19, 2007

When the Board of Regents approved changes in the faculty tenure policy last June, the University of Minnesota achieved something few other universities have done. In a process led by the faculty, the board endorsed a tenure policy with criteria and standards both more rigorous and more explicit.

It was undoubtedly the top faculty story of 2007 for the University of Minnesota, though the train of governance didn't stop before moving on to the painstaking process of revising a set of procedures to implement the changes to the policy.

"We thought we had it done in June, but it kept coming back to haunt us!" jokes English and classical civilization regents professor Tom Clayton. He chairs the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee--the University Senate workhorse on the endeavor. "We were working on writing the procedures through the summer and into fall semester."

The new "Procedures for Reviewing Candidates for Tenure and/or Promotion: Tenure-Track and Tenured Faculty" went into effect in October.

The basis for the revisions to the faculty tenure policy grew out of the 2005-06 Task Force on Faculty Culture as part of strategic positioning. Those task-force recommendations were passed from the Office of the Senior Vice President and Academic Affairs and Provost to the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee.

"What the University of Minnesota seeks above all in its faculty members is intellectual distinction and academic integrity." --Section 7, general criteria for awarding tenure

In the summer of 2006, Clayton had served three years on what was formerly the tenure subcommittee of the University Senate. Suddenly, he found himself the chair of an expanded committee with a major task.

Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee,
2006-07


-Tom Clayton, CLA, chair
-Arlene Carney, vice provost
-Yusuf Abul-Hajj, Pharmacy
-Tracey Anderson, Morris
-William Doherty, CEHD
-James Farr, CLA
-Joseph Gaugler, Nursing
-Candace Kruttschnitt, CLA
-Karen Miksch, CEHD
-John Mowitt, CLA
-Paul Porter, CFANS
-Terry Simon, IT
-Jianyi Zhang, Medical School
-Gary Engstrand, staff, U Senate

"We started meeting in the usual way, biweekly, and in no time at all, we were meeting weekly, and that continued for the rest of the academic year," he recalls. He credits vice provost for faculty and academic affairs Arlene Carney and Faculty Consultative Committee (FCC) member Carol Chomsky, as well as the other committee members, for an incredible effort.

"Really, it took some part of every day and parts of every weekend," Clayton says. "We ate and slept with this as well as wrote it."

In all, the committee met 21 times from September 2006 to March 2007. Minutes were widely dispersed to the faculty across the University, and input was sought throughout the process. It was discussed twice in the Faculty Senate, with comments incorporated into revisions. In large part because of the consultative process, the Faculty Senate voted unanimously, 108-0, to pass the revised code in April.

The committee didn't set out to compare the University with other institutions.

"We thought of the University of Minnesota as an archetypal university," says Clayton. "I think everyone on the committee would see the changes we made as what everyone should do."

Mapping the path for a new generation of faculty

Tenure traditionally takes six years to attain and requires a strong record of scholarship or creative work and teaching. The typical tenure-track faculty member progresses from assistant professor to associate professor, when tenure is acquired, and then to full professor. Tenure assures an academic home for life, barring a significant change in faculty performance according to department and University standards.

See the Board of Regents policy, Faculty Tenure, in official PDF format (29 pp.) and unofficial HTML format.

The University of Minnesota's first policy on faculty tenure was adopted in 1945, when most faculty members were male, with wives at home to care for their children. Today, more than half of those earning Ph.D.s nationwide are women. In 2007 at the University of Minnesota, 40 percent of faculty in their typical six-year probationary period are women.

The faculty tenure policy has been revised several times over the years. But key changes in the 2007 revisions are significant.

"We used to have a policy about faculty tenure," says Carney. "We now have a policy that maps the path for an extraordinary faculty career, including promotion to the rank of professor. At the same time, we have a policy that points the way for the new generation of faculty, which includes a significant proportion of women."

Among the highlights:

Reviewing the changes in advance of approval, the Board of Regents commended the faculty on leadership and ownership of the process. The University's system of shared governance, one regent predicted, will prove to be an advantage in drawing talent.

"We already have a great university," says Clayton. "The tenure code revision enables us to have an even greater university."

FURTHER READING

"Keeping the best: How the U is changing the climate for new faculty members," from M, fall 2007